Rachel’s Tomb is the traditional burial site of Rachel, Jacob’s wife and Joseph and Benjamin’s mother. It is a small building sacred to all three religions on the outskirts of Bethlehem and approximately 400 meters south of Jerusalem. It is considered only second in religious significance to the Church of the Nativity and the third holiest site in Judaism.
There is much discussion regarding the actual site of Rachel's Tomb as some believe it is to the north of Jerusalem.
Earliest records mention the site as Rachel's Tomb as early as the first part of the 4th Century AD. The tomb was initially constructed with 11 stones placed horizontally and one stone vertical to them – it is traditionally believed that each of Jacob’s 11 sons positioned a stone and then he himself added the final vertical stone. Rachel's Tomb with its dome structure dates from the Muslim Ottoman period. Sir Moses Montefiore in 1841 added an antechamber to the structure.
From the 1940s, Rachel's Tomb has become the symbol of the Jewish people's return to Zion, its ancient homeland. For Jewish women, the tomb is associated with fertility and is where women pray for successful childbirth. Muslims prayed inside the mosque there and the cemetery near the tomb was the main Muslim cemetery in the Bethlehem area. It is reported that in the past Jews and Muslims respected each other and accommodated each other's rituals.
Today Rachel's Tomb is under the control of the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs.
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